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IP/10/905

Brussels, 7 July 2010

EU launches public debate on the future of pensions

The European Commission has today launched a Europe-wide public debate on how to ensure adequate, sustainable and safe pensions and how the EU can best support the national efforts. Ageing populations in all Member States have put existing retirement systems under massive strain and the financial and economic crisis has only increased this pressure. The consultation document, a Green paper, poses a series of questions inviting all interested parties to contribute views, opinions and ideas on confronting the pension challenge - one of the biggest facing Europe and most parts of the world today – and how the EU can contribute to the solutions.

Presenting the consultation paper, and with the full backing of Commissioners Olli Rehn (Economic and Monetary affairs) and Michel Barnier (Internal Market and Services), László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion said:

"The number of retired people in Europe compared to those financing their pensions is forecast to double by 2060 - the current situation is simply not sustainable. In addressing this challenge the balance between time spent in work and in retirement needs to be looked at carefully.”

Mr Andor added: “The choice we face is poorer pensioners, higher pension contributions or more people working more and longer. One of the great successes of Europe’s social model is to ensure that old age is not synonymous with poverty. This is a promise on which we have to continue to deliver and the dialogue we are launching today should help Member States take the right decisions to ensure pension systems are fit for purpose".

The Green Paper reviews the European pension framework in a holistic and integrated manner, benefiting from synergies across economic and social policy and financial market regulation which is why so many different topics are covered, such as: longer working lives, the internal market for pensions, mobility of pensions across the EU, gaps in EU regulation, the future solvency regime for pension funds, the risk of employer insolvency, informed decision-making and governance at EU level.

In particular, it aims to address the following issues:

  • Ensuring adequate incomes in retirement and making sure pension systems are sustainable in the long term

  • Achieving the right balance between work and retirement and facilitating a longer active life

  • Removing obstacles to people who work in different EU countries and to the internal market for retirement products

  • Making pensions safer in the wake of the recent economic crisis, both now and in the longer term

  • Making sure pensions are more transparent so that people can take informed decisions about their own retirement income

The consultation is a joint initiative from Commissioners Andor, Barnier (Internal market and services) and Rehn (Economic and monetary affairs), covering economic and social policies as well as financial market regulation. It does not make specific policy proposals but seeks views on possible future actions at European level.

The consultation period will run for four months (ending 15 November 2010) during which anyone with an interest in the subject can submit their views via a dedicated website: http://ec.europa.eu/yourvoice/ipm/forms/dispatch?form=pensions.The European Commission will then analyse all responses and consider the best course for future actions to address these issues at EU level.

Background

Ensuring an adequate and sustainable retirement income for EU citizens now and in the future is a priority for the EU. Achieving these objectives in an ageing Europe is a major challenge. Most countries in the EU have sought to prepare for this by reforming their pension systems.

In 2008 there were four people of working age (15-64 years old) for every EU citizen aged 65 years or over. By 2060, that ratio will drop to two to one. The recent financial and economic crisis has aggravated and amplified the impact of these demographic trends. Setbacks in economic growth, public budgets, financial stability and employment have made it more urgent to adjust retirement practices and the way people build up entitlements to pensions. The crisis has revealed that more must be done to improve the efficiency and safety of pension schemes.

A recent Eurobarometer survey found that 73% of EU citizens either explicitly anticipate lower pension benefits or think they will have to postpone their retirement or save more money for old age (see IP/10/773). Meanwhile, 54% are worried that their income in old age would be insufficient for them to live a decent life, including a majority in 17 of the EU's 27 member countries.

Further information

MEMO/10/302

Green Paper and Commission Staff Working Document :

http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?langId=en&catId=89&newsId=839&furtherNews=yes

The EU and pensions

http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=752&langId=en


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